Brandy is distilled wine, generally 40-60% alcohol by volume.  It may have it's origins  in ancient Babylon.  There are three types:  Cognac, Armagnac & Pomace.  Cognac is produced using the pot still method of distillation.  Aging is in oak barrels, from three years on up.  Armagnac is from the Gascony region of southwestern France and has vintage specificity.  Pomace is made from seeds and stems as well as the crushed grapes.


Sherry is "fortified wine" made from several types of Spanish grapes from the "D.0. Jerez-Xeres Sherry" region.  After fermentation, brandy is added.  Some sherries are finished with a yeast fermentation.  Harvey's Bristol Cream is a blend of four sherry types:  Fino (dry, aged 5 yrs); Amontillado (Fino which ages further through oxidation); Oloroso (aged only by oxidation); and Pedro Ximenez (very sweet, made w/sun-dried grapes).  Other styles include Manzanilla (aged fino from a specific town "Sanlucar de Barrameda); Palo Cortado (made from an immature Fino which has lost its yeast early and then oxidizes).  A "Solera" refers to the stacked barrel aging process utilized.

Ports are fortified wine specific to a region of northern Portugal. Unlike Sherry, brandy is added to the wine at a specific point in the fermentation process to stop it and produce Port.  This preserves the residual sugar, or "brix" content at a certain level.  Ports are often blended with older vintages for continuity. "LBV" or Late Bottled Vintage" is made from grapes grown in a single year.  Ports are best enjoyed at 61 degrees F.


Madeira is similar but is made in an unusual manner.  Maturation is hastened by subjecting the wine to high temperatures for a number of months, from 100-140 degrees F.  The wine mellows, but it is also exposed to air, causing some oxidation.  Because of this process, once opened a bottle can stay stable for a long time.  There are some Madeiras that are 150 years old.  Madeiras are made from a combination of several different types of red & white grapes, one of which is Verdelho.  This grape has also been used to made some great wines on its own.  We carry the 'Hope Verdelho', a fine white wine from Australia.  We currently carry Blandy's Alvada Madeira. 

Alcoholic drinks on a tray

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